After the success of its predecessor, Far Cry 4 had a lot to live up to but Ubisoft have done it again, as this explosive RPG is back, with a bang! In Far Cry 4 you dive straight into the mountainous world of Kyrat where enemies are plentiful and adventures even more so. You play the not-so-silent protagonist Ajay Ghale as he tries his very best to obey his mother’s last wishes, and sprinkle her ashes at Lakshama in northern Kyrat. This spirals out of control, as it does with many Far Cry games, with Ajay caught in the middle of a civil war between the dictator that now governs Kyrat, Pagan Min, and the rebellious group founded by Ajay’s father, The Golden Path. Far Cry 4 keeps this narrative up while maintaining great dialogue, fast paced action and mystery in a game that will have you captivated for hours on end.
Let me begin by talking about the most obvious change from Far Cry 3 and that is graphically. Far Cry 4 has so many moments when all you want to do is sit down and admire the scenery, but are rudely interrupted by someone shooting at you. The backdrops are marvelously done giving you the sense that you are actually stuck in this little country nestled between The Himalayas and not just playing it. After playing a few games on my new shiny PS4 nothing has given me the sensation of next generation gaming until now. To go along with this, the map is massive, giving you plenty of time to absorb all of the effort that Ubisoft has put into this game and there is never something you can’t be getting on with. Whether or not this means exploring a cave and trying to find masks that were left there by a mysterious serial killer, grappling up mountains to grab all the treasure that sits on the top or even freeing the fortified outposts guarded by Pagin Min’s forces.
I have wanted to make this point since Far Cry 3 and talk about the narrative and dialogue of Far Cry. It has come to my attention that the narrative in Far Cry 3 was heavily criticised for being too unrealistic and farfetched and I want to speak about that briefly. If I am honest I agree that the story is unrealistic, because I don’t know about you, but I rarely go on a holiday that ends with me freeing an unknown island in the middle of the pacific from a tyrannical overlord. This, however, doesn’t make the narrative bad, if the game just ended after you tried to break out of the cage and Vaas just shot you in the face I’d be very disappointed by what £40 gets you these days.
The story in Far Cry 4 doesn’t differ in style to Far Cry 3, it is the same kind of deal and is quite out there again but I think the ins and outs of Ajay and the mystery that shrouds Kyrat is great and it drives the player forward to try and learn as much as they can. Additionally the dialogue complements this narrative and is well written, witty and voiced superbly.
The improvements that have been made to gameplay have not gone unnoticed and I would like to give a mention to how changing some small gameplay issues can dramatically increase the levels of difficulty and fun. In Far Cry 3 the outposts were kinda easy to capture, most of the time you could sneak in, release a tiger, then sit and watch with a cup of tea and try to figure out what you’re going be doing this weekend. Ubisoft heard this was a problem and replied in a great way with the introduction of a new unit. The Hunter. Not only does the Hunter have the unique ability to soothe wild animals, but they also don’t stay marked by your camera for very long so you have to make sure you know exactly where they are at all times. This means that you can’t always just find a cliff, get the camera and your box of doughnuts out, and spot all the enemies so you know where to go. This is smart by Ubisoft as it makes the gameplay more varied and difficult and can keep the player interested for a longer time, outposts are no longer a bore to do they are exciting and I look forward to each one. With these combat changes, Ubisoft also included some exploration elements that make trying to reach certain collectables a little bit puzzling, I mean lets not lie to ourselves, most of them are quite straight forward but some had my thinking for a little bit. One of these changes is one that I mentioned earlier on and that is the ability to grapple up and down cliffs, this is pretty much a necessity in Kyrat as it is so mountainous but it can make for some interesting exploration as you swing over a gap that would drop you to your death. Not only is grappling fun in exploration it can be very useful in combat. Grappling to a ledge that is too far to jump to can give you the tactical advantage in a fight that is turning sour, although these changes are few in number, and they might not sound too impressive, combined they make the game very enjoyable.
Something that has been bugging me since the first time I played Far Cry 4 is the driving, I don’t know what they did between Far Cry 3 and 4 but they have to undo it. I don’t think I have had a tougher time trying to drive in a game, the cars turn about as easy as that shopping trolley with the epileptic wheel and one little bump in the road can send you in a downwards spiral of trying to wrestle the car back into your control. This normally ends up with you driving into a tree or spinning off the road into a river, I ended up walking until I found the auto drive function because it was simply too much stress to attempt a little road trip. Fortunately the auto drive function has been implemented otherwise I would be running everywhere, its almost like the devs try to test the driving and saw what they had created and looked each other and said in unison “We need auto drive” followed by some audience laughter reminiscent of a scene in a sitcom. In the auto drives defence it does make for some very interesting car fights, where you can actually concentrate on what your shooting and not crash into things and if you liked the challenge of trying to drive and shooting then you can just turn auto drive off.
One of the things that Ubisoft have kept from Far Cry 3 is that the skill tree is pretty much finished before the end of the game. This was a massive praise by many people towards Far Cry 3 as all the cool skills that you wanted to use were accessible for a long time before the game finished. In most games you get the last really cool skill just before the end boss fight and thats about it, theres no time to play around with it and enjoy. One criticism that I do have about this skill tree is that I don’t think it as varied as the Far Cry 3’s with only 2 trees to skill in, your choices are between combat (Tiger) and survival (Elephant) which was a bit underwhelming, having said that you do get all of the skills fairly quickly so the choice doesn’t mean much difference anyway. Even though there is only 1 tree for combat this time rather than 2, they merged the best bits of both the trees from Far Cry 3 into one which I started to like more and more as the game progressed. This means that if you are the stealthy player you don’t die immediately if you so much as blink, and as a fighter you have a little bit more diversity to your strategy then just run at their bullets face first and hope for the best. This makes the style of combat dependent on the situation rather than what skill tree you preferred.
Another new addition is the Arena which is a mini game where you get pitted against waves of enemies and animals as you fight for your life in an underground ring. The premise is very common in a lot of games as it gives the player something extra to do (if they have the time) and can be very challenging at the later stages. There are different events to compete in which vary between, testing your metal with a weapon of choice and seeing how long you can last in a endless survival style battle with the potential of exclusive rewards. This is a nice addition although not massively necessary, it can provide a nice break from all the open world exploring.
Although I really like Far Cry 4, not even this game can escape Criticism Corner! Unfortunately not many games will get through me unscathed and Far Cry 4 is no different. This may seem like a little problem but to me it bugged me enough to write something about it, the animals hate you. They actually hate you and I don’t mean if you walk up close to them they attack you because I understand, I’d probably flip out if someone walked that close to me. I am talking about this, for example, I was meandering through Kyrat minding my own business when I heard a lot of growls and roars so I turned and it was a bear and tiger locked in a gripping battle to the death. So naturally, I took my camera out and started to watch and the second I took my camera out they both stopped, and looked at me. Again I find this hard to relate to because I don’t have many battle to the death (I don’t get out much as you can tell) but I probably wouldn’t wanna stop and attack a guy 100ft away because he pulled out a camera. Also I’m not a tiger or a bear so theres that. Now to my last complaint about the native fauna of Kyrat.
The eagles. Now all of you Americans out there are probably imaging the great symbol of freedom, and all you classic rock fans are probably thinking about Hotel California, all I think is ruthless, annoying, killing machine of death (that may have been a bit redundant but I’m upset, cut me some slack!) They are the single most annoying feature of Far Cry 4 because they attack you for literally no reason whatsoever, at any point, from anywhere and its not like you can tag them with your camera all the time because its hard to look straight up in the air and walk without bumping into something. They pick the most inopportune moment to swoop down and scratch your arm to death, there isn’t even a quick time event to take less damage or hurt the beast so, that means you have to pull out your gun and spray until somehow you manage to hit it and it will fall out of the sky as the feeling of relief rushes through your body. This can be inconvenient if you are trying to stealth into an outpost and take sabotage the alarms so you don’t get spotted, then this giant pain in the ass comes down squawking as loud as it can and trying to scratch your eyes out and you have to start again. It isn’t even like the game rewards you with anything for killing it, most animals in the game give you some skin or something that you can use, all the eagles give you are some feathers that are just useless. I’m glad I got that out of my system #rantover.
Overall I think that Far Cry 4 is a step in the right direction for the franchise with a lot of potential to create some more great games, with graphical and gameplay improvements on the minds of the developers. Although this game excels in some areas it is far from perfect with quite a few bits and bobs that could be improved to ensure that there is a bright future for the series. Thats it for now, have fun exploring Kyrat and try not to fall off too many mountains OK?